Joshua 9:20

20 This is what we must do. We must let them live, for divine anger would come upon us if we broke our oath.

Joshua 9:20 Meaning and Commentary

Joshua 9:20

This we will do to them
Either this favour we will show them, preserving their lives, next mentioned, or this punishment we will inflict on them, making them hewers of wood, and drawers of water; which though not mentioned directly, was what was upon their minds, and in their design to propose, only they were extremely desirous of sparing their lives, which they repeat:

we will even let them live;
this by all means must be done, their lives must not be taken away as the rest of the Canaanites:

lest wrath come upon us, because of the oath which we sware unto them;
that is, lest the wrath of God come upon us princes, and upon the whole community, for perjury, a breach of the third command, ( Exodus 20:7 ) , a sin highly displeasing to God; since an oath is made not only in his presence, and before him as a witness, who is appealed unto, but in his name, and is often severely threatened, and sorely punished; and as even the breach of this oath was several hundreds of years after, in the times of David, ( 2 Samuel 21:1 2 Samuel 21:2 ) . The Vulgate Latin version therefore reads the words, "lest the wrath of the Lord come upon us": but Abarbinel observes, that it may be understood of the wrath of Israel; for the words may be rendered, "and there shall not be wrath upon us, because of the oath": there need be none, there is no occasion for it, since this was agreed upon on all hands, that the Gibeonites should be let to live; and since it was an act of kindness and goodness, and especially they would have no reason to be angry and wrathful with them, when they heard them out, what they had further to propose to them, to make them their servants, though they spared their lives.

Joshua 9:20 In-Context

18 But the Israelites did not attack the towns, for the Israelite leaders had made a vow to them in the name of the LORD, the God of Israel. The people of Israel grumbled against their leaders because of the treaty.
19 But the leaders replied, “Since we have sworn an oath in the presence of the LORD, the God of Israel, we cannot touch them.
20 This is what we must do. We must let them live, for divine anger would come upon us if we broke our oath.
21 Let them live.” So they made them woodcutters and water carriers for the entire community, as the Israelite leaders directed.
22 Joshua called together the Gibeonites and said, “Why did you lie to us? Why did you say that you live in a distant land when you live right here among us?